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Mercedes Doesn't Want To Be Europe's Buick

Illustration for article titled Mercedes Doesnt Want To Be Europes Buick
The Morning ShiftAll your daily car news in one convenient place. Isn't your time more important?

This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place at 9:00 AM. Or, you could spend all day waiting for other sites to parse it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?

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Illustration for article titled Mercedes Doesnt Want To Be Europes Buick

1st Gear: Nor Does It Want To Be BMW's Bitch Remember that one time when Mercedes was the biggest luxury carmaker? Me neither. Mercedes would like to return to those days and it's spending a lot of money and effort to do it, as profiled by Bloomberg.

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A big part of those plans is to shake their stuffy, old man image and get younger buyers into their cars with sporty compacts designed under the guidance of Gorden Wagener who, for the industry, is an almost juvenile 45 years old.

The styling of the new models represent “a shift in paradigm,” Wagener said in an interview at the show. “We radically changed the design language to make it super clean and pure in line with our philosophy, which we call ‘sensual purity.’”

Hmm… "Sensual Purity." Like Anna Kendrick?

The two cars to look at in this dynamic are the Mercedes GLA and Mercedes CLA.

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Good for Mercedes. Competition is good and Audi has done a much better job.

Illustration for article titled Mercedes Doesnt Want To Be Europes Buick
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2nd Gear: What The UAW Is Doing The UAW may have slid down a great distance from their once enviable position atop Union Mountain, but they're not without new ideas. The whole let's go to VW move is an interesting gambit.

If you want to go deep into it read this great Detroit News wrap-up, but in short: Asian plants are impenatrable, but Ze Germans have a "works council" model that they could be pressured to adopt and they'd need a union to help with it.

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The Big Three, of course, will be supportive. Just read this paragraph:

And you can bet it enjoys the quiet cheering of Detroit automakers, happy to see UAW representation heading through the doors of a global competitor with outsized (if faltering) designs on the U.S. market. That the plant is the baby of Republican Sen. Bob Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor and nemesis of Detroit in the auto bailouts, makes the prospect just a tad sweeter.

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Yep.

Illustration for article titled Mercedes Doesnt Want To Be Europes Buick
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3rd Gear: UAW Trust Holding Up Full Fiat Takeover Sergio Marchionne wants to buy the rest of Chrysler, this we know, and the current owner of 41.5% of it is the United Auto Workers' healthcare trust. At the moment, the trust ain't in no hurry to give it up until it can get a better price.

Currently, part of that 41.5% that Chrysler has the option to buy they can't buy as the UAW goes to court to… get a better price.

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Bloomberg adds the most interesting tidbit, saying that the UAW could try to offer some of their holdings in an IPO as soon as the 4th quarter.

That sounds like a great, but ultimately empty threat to me.

Illustration for article titled Mercedes Doesnt Want To Be Europes Buick
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4th Gear: Google Execs Got Cheap Jet Fuel For Their Private Fleet Don't let the fact that Google has a fleet of private jets bother you for, if anyone has earned a private jet, it's that company. They've printed money. Even though nine private aircraft for three people seems slightly absurd, what's the point of having money if you can't enjoy spending it?

But maybe let it bother you a little that the government may have subsidized them.

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The WSJ report uncovers some weird facts about how the Google founders got six years of discounted fuel via NASA.

While NASA did use a Google-purchased Alpha trainer jet to do atmospheric research, it appears Google may have been using cheaper fuel to fly their 767 (like the one pictured) to the Virgin Islands at a fuel price cheaper than what you probably pay, per gallon, for your car.

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The government likely didn't lose any money over this arrangement, but it is odd.

Illustration for article titled Mercedes Doesnt Want To Be Europes Buick
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5th Gear: FTC Probing Dealers Over TrueCar Participation There's a ton of money to be made in the dealer referral business, which is why Edmunds, TrueCar, and Cars.com all exist. In order to climb to the top of the business you have to offer something to consumers that, by its very nature, goes against the interest of dealers trying to offer the highest price possible.

Thus, conflict. Read this Automotive News piece and it'll explain why the Federal Trade Commission is looking into whether dealers got together to hurt TrueCar by not participating and sending data to the company.

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TrueCar, for their part, say they didn't ask for it.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, Wikimedia Commons/Aero Icarus

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DISCUSSION

As a guy notably under Mercedes-Benz buyers median age (and also notably poorer than the median income of said buyers), I will say that I do find some of their newer offerings to be interesting. I like both the CLA and the GLA; while I wish they were more traditional RWD vehicles, from everything I've heard about the new CLA AMG, it certainly seems to be able to handle itself just fine.

But more than anything else, what I like is the idea that they are trying (though not quite yet succeeding) to re-build themselves on - some of us would like a well-built, well-engineered car, but without all the bullshit. I don't want a navigation system. I don't want heated seats. I don't want lane-keeping assist or blind spot warning systems. I'm a perfectly competent human being, perfectly capable of driving and navigating. What I want is something that was well-built and well-engineered by equally competent human beings that does what it was designed to do with aplomb. Keep the other crap off. Not only do I not want any of it, I also can't afford any of it. So if I'm not going to buy all that crap one way or another, why bother including it?

To be perfectly fair, Mercedes-Benz does slowly seem to be understanding this concept. According to some, they went a little too far and cut some of the quality materials, but I won't make a judgment there until I actually sit in one. And, as a bonus, the CLA is actually an attractive car.

So, in summary: Engineer it well, build it well, keep it simple, and make it attractive. If Mercedes-Benz can spend a little more time perfecting their formula here, color me interested.